RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
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Mary's Blog

2015 Tax Extenders Set to Have a Positive Impact on the Real Estate Industry

January 15, 2016 1:22 pm

Each December, close to 50 tax extenders—aptly-named extensions of tax breaks—come into play in Congress. Included in those that were passed in 2015 are several that stand to have a positive impact on those looking to enter the housing market this year. Not only did Congress and the Senate pass the $622 billion bill, but President Barack Obama is expected to put his signature on the extenders as well.
 
One of the extenders concerns tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness, protecting underwater homeowners from incurring a large tax bill on phantom income in connection with a workout or short sale.
 
Tom Salomone, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, notes that since 2007, this specific tax relief has strengthened individual communities and the broader economy as more distressed homeowners were offered the flexibility to responsibly address an underwater mortgage.
 
“These tax extenders offer critical support for consumers, homeowners, commercial property investors and small businesses alike,” Salomone says. “A strong economy requires certainty, and this proposal gives a healthy dose of it to millions of American taxpayers.”
 
The tax extenders deal offers an additional two years of protection covering tax years 2015 and 2016.
 
Also included in the bill is the permanent extension of a 15-year cost recovery period for the depreciation of qualified leasehold improvements. This is important as it ensures that a commonsense cost-recovery period remains in place permanently for improvements made to nonresidential commercial property.
 
Another real estate-related provision is the renewal of certain incentives to promote energy efficient commercial and multifamily buildings, including the extension of an expired tax credit that ranges between $1,000 - $2,000 for energy-efficient new homes for an additional two years.
 
The bill also includes changes to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, which is expected to ease restrictions on investment in commercial real estate.
 
One part of the bill that might not seem as though it’s aimed at those in the real estate industry, but will have a positive effect on the industry at large, is legislation that permanently extends rules allowing small- and mid-sized businesses to expense business equipment, rather than depreciate the equipment over several years. Salomone says this is important to REALTORS® who purchase new computers, copiers, cameras and even vehicles in the course of doing business.
 
“We’re grateful for the leadership shown on this important piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our work in support of homeownership,” Salomone says.
 
To learn more about the recently passed tax extenders, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Take the Stress Out of the Buying and Selling Process with These Simple Tips

January 15, 2016 1:22 pm

Regardless of what side of the real estate transaction you’re on, buying or selling a home can be a stressful experience, and if you’re not careful, the anxieties associated with the process can become overwhelming. While getting out of the house for a massage or yoga class can be helpful, here are some additional ways to take the stress out of the process.  
 
First, understand your goals in buying or selling a home. Make a list of what you hope to accomplish—the price, neighborhood, timetable, etc. Once you know exactly what you want, you’ll have an easier time explaining your wants and needs to your agent, alleviating some of the stress that goes hand-in-hand with the buying or selling process.
 
Another simple way to alleviate stress is to prepare your finances ahead of time. If buying a home, know what you can afford and get a pre-approval letter from your bank so you don’t have to worry about whether you can truly afford the home you want. If selling a home, know what it will cost to make repairs or renovations and get estimates for the move itself. When both parties know how much money they really need, it makes things easier for everyone involved.
 
Next, take the time to read some books, blogs or online real estate advice that can provide a glimpse into what to expect when buying or selling a home. Understanding the process and being aware of issues that can come up will keep surprises from causing undo stress. If you understand the problems that can come with obtaining a mortgage or realize that not every offer will be a good one, you can keep your emotions at bay.
 
While you most likely already have an agent working with you, other professionals can help alleviate stress as well. Having a good real estate lawyer will let you sign any contracts without fear that you’re making a mistake. Hiring a good inspector will allow you to rest easy knowing that any problems with the house will be found. And working with a home stager will go a long way toward positioning your home in the best light possible.
 
In the end, remember that not everything can be controlled, and the real estate game can get confusing at times. If something unexpected comes up, take a deep breath, relax and try to do something to take your mind off of the deal for a while. 
 
Contact our office today for more tips to help take the stress out of the buying or selling process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for a Smooth Home Purchase

January 15, 2016 1:22 pm

If you’re planning on purchasing a home this year, here are a few tips to keep things moving smoothly throughout the process.
 
1. Communicate with Your Agent. Work with a real estate agent that you are comfortable with and be sure to express everything you want and need in your new home. By communicating your desires from the beginning, your agent won’t waste time showing you homes that don’t fit your criteria. If you know you want a gourmet kitchen or walk-in closet in the master bedroom, make that clear. Or if you absolutely have to be near public transportation, tell your agent to avoid turning the process into a guessing game. When it comes to finding the perfect home, clear communication is key. And if you run into any problems along the way, be sure to speak with your agent to iron out any issues.
 
2. Be Reasonable with Expectations. If you’re searching for a three-bedroom home located in a certain neighborhood that has a pool, finished basement and sunroom and your agent shows you a property and your biggest qualm is the color, don’t simply write the home off. When searching for the home of your dreams, you may have to give something up or make some changes once you move in. Finding a home that’s 100 percent what you want can be a daunting undertaking.
 
3. Don’t be Discouraged. Don’t expect to find your dream home overnight. Buyers often get frustrated because nothing pops up in the first week or two, but remember, you’re not buying a new toaster. You want to find the home that you and your family can live in and love for years and years to come.  
 
4. Play the Money Game. If you offer $375,000 on a home that’s listed at $400,000 and the seller refuses to budge, be prepared to negotiate. When buying a home, you need to have some wiggle room. Before making an offer, discuss your strategy with your agent as he or she will be able to tell you whether your offer is fair or unreasonable. It’s also important to check out comps in the neighborhood so that you can make a reasonable offer from the get-go.
 
5. Get Your Mortgage Pre-Approved. This could be the smartest thing you do all year. By having a mortgage approved before you even begin looking at houses, you’ll be ready to make an offer as soon as you find the home of your dreams. Getting pre-approved will also give you the upper hand over other buyers who may be interested in the same house.
 
For more tips for a smooth home-buying process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Tax Extenders

January 15, 2016 1:22 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines five tips that are instrumental in keeping the home-buying process running smoothly. Other topics covered this month include simple ways to take the stress out of the home-buying or -selling process and the importance of choosing a reputable moving company to transport your belongings to your new space. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Say It Ain't Snow! 3 Safety Tips for Drivers

January 14, 2016 2:55 pm

It’s no secret winter storms can severely diminish driving conditions, and many leave icy, pothole-ridden roads in their wake. But according to a recent survey by Hankook Tire, many drivers don’t have a solid grasp on the rules of the road—in fact, the majority of survey respondents did not know to keep a distance of 10-12 seconds, or six car lengths, between their vehicle and the driver in front of them during adverse road conditions.

If your area is prone to winter weather, keep in mind these safety tips before trekking out in your vehicle, courtesy of Hankook Tire.

• Don't Mix Tires – Never mix tires with different tread patterns, performance ratings or sizes. Use identical tires on all of your vehicle's wheel positions in order to maintain the best control and stability. In cold temperatures where slick surfaces require significant grip, a dedicated winter or all-season tire is best.

• Check Tire Pressure – As the temperature drops, so does tire inflation, decreasing 1-2 pounds for every 10 degree-drop in ambient air temperature. Make sure your tires are properly inflated regularly during winter.

• Keep a Full Tank – Or at least half-full. A car's fuel lines can freeze up very easily in the winter, and this usually happens when the gas level is below half the tank.

Source: Hankook Tire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 DIY Projects to Improve Energy-Efficiency

January 14, 2016 2:55 pm

(BPT)—You don’t need to hire a professional to make your home more energy-efficient.

We’ll say it again: You don’t need to hire a professional to make your home more energy-efficient. In fact, with just a few tools, most homeowners can greatly reduce their monthly utility costs, as well as lessen their home’s carbon footprint, by DIY-ing energy-saving projects around the home. For example:

Replace Worn Weather Stripping – Replacing worn weather stripping on doors and windows not only prevents cold drafts in your home, but also helps save on heating costs. To remove old stripping, simply heat caulk with a hair dryer to loosen, and use a paint scraper to peel away the old layer.

Swap Furnace Filter – Before you turn on your furnace for the season, check the filter. If it looks dirty, it needs to be replaced—the average cost of a new filter is $10. Regularly changing the filters in your heating system can drastically improve both its longevity and efficiency. If using your heat daily, aim to replace the filter every four to six weeks.

Cover Bare Floorboards – Non-insulated floors cause up to 10 percent of a home's energy loss. If you have wooden floors, consider adding rugs to help reduce some of that loss. If you spot cracks or gaps in the floor, apply a silicone-based filler to seal.

Source: Bernzomatic

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Will Homes Look Like in 10 Years?

January 14, 2016 2:55 pm

Accessibility. Automation. Conservation. Health. Safety. These themes are expected to shape the future of residential home design, according to a recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) report.

“Historically, the dominant factors in home design have been economic and demographic shifts,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Residential architects are seeing these forces at play in their vision for the next decade, as well. Homeowners have indicated a strong preference for functionality, accessibility and sustainability over the last ten years, and architects expect that to accelerate, with increasing demand for healthy building materials and furnishings, along with designs that provide measures of resistance to weather-related calamities.”

The themes above will inform the following major design trends in the next 10 years:

1. Technological Integration – Technological integration will become more prevalent, with both dedicated support for personal devices and automated controls for temperature, security and lighting.

2. Non-Toxic Materials – Increased awareness about environmental health issues will lead to more widespread use of low- or no-volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for paint and composite wood, as well as natural fiber upholstery, carpets without polyvinyl chloride backing and air purification systems.

3. Disaster-Proof Design – There will be a growing demand for design that strengthens homes against natural disasters, including elevated residences, windows with impact glazing, dedicated safe rooms and backup power generation.

4. Energy-Efficiency – The next 10 years will see an increasing use of energy-efficient and other sustainable design elements and products, such as solar panels, water reclamation systems and tankless water heaters.

5. Aging-in-Place Plans – More homes will include aging-in-place and universal design elements to accommodate an aging population, including wider hallways, added handrails and one-level living spaces.

6. Open-Concept Living – Kitchens will continue to serve as the focal point of the home highlighted by open-design concepts.

7. Outdoor Space – The next 10 years in residential design will also include a heavy emphasis and investment in outdoor living spaces.

8. Home Offices – As employment situations evolve and workplace norms fall by the wayside, more households will require space devoted to home offices.

9. Infill Development – Infill development, or the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels of land within existing urban areas, will result in smaller, better-designed homes.

10. Urban Characteristics – There will be a strong preference for urban lifestyle qualities in communities, leading to higher-density developments that provide amenities to residents.

Source: AIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Replacing a Home Appliance? Why It Pays to Buy New

January 13, 2016 2:55 pm

When a major household appliance needs replacing, you may be tempted to save some money by purchasing a used or refurbished model. Be forewarned: what you save now may end up costing you more down the line, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

Why? Used or refurbished appliances may not be as efficient as the latest offerings, resulting in higher energy bills.

Consider this: a 20-cubic foot refrigerator manufactured in 1991 consumes, on average, more than 857 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year, while a 22-cubic foot refrigerator carrying the ENERGY-STAR® label manufactured in 2012 consumes only 452 kWh a year. That difference amounts to over $50 in savings per year for the typical household.

Used or refurbished appliances also have the potential to break down, resulting in more costs for repairs. And, secondhand appliances may have a lower life expectancy overall, especially if the previous owner neglected to conduct regular maintenance.

Keep in mind some states and utility companies offer sizable rebates when you purchase new energy-efficient appliances, and even when you recycle your old appliances.

In sum, a new appliance, when designed with energy-efficiency in mind, is a far better deal than a used one.

Source: AHAM

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Now's the Time: Test Your Home for Radon

January 13, 2016 2:55 pm

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is responsible for over 20,000 fatalities each year. To avoid exposure to radon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly advises homeowners to test their homes for elevated levels of radon.

“Radon—a serious health threat to our families and communities—can be easily avoided through testing,” says Ron Curry, regional administrator of the EPA. “Testing for radon will save thousands of lives, prevent burdensome health care costs, and make America’s homes and schools safer for future generations."

You can test your home for radon with an affordable, do-it-yourself kit available at many home improvement and hardware stores, as well as online. If you prefer not to conduct the test yourself, you can hire a qualified radon professional.

If you’re in the market for a new home, make it a point to look for radon-resistant construction—your builder should have this information readily available for you.

Source: EPA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Paint Color Trends That Imitate Life

January 13, 2016 2:55 pm

Call it life imitating art, in reverse.

Interior designers often consult cultural trends to inform décor choices, especially paint colors. This season, color expert Sara McLean of Dunn-Edwards Paints forecasts a “combination of colors” that reflect current lifestyle preferences—colors that can be applied in any home.

“I believe that the combination of colors tell the story,” says McLean. “It’s about the entire palette and how a collection of colors evokes a feeling, an era or a scene.”

These color combinations include:

• Rose shades of pink, such as blush, with fresh and fruity pastels

• Deep, Prussian blue contrasted by stark whites, or Air Force blue with Scandinavian gray

• Rich, saturated reds, such as burgundy and Bordeaux, with poppy corals or softened peach tones

• Acidic green-yellow with turquoise, indigo, navy and periwinkle blues

Color combinations will also multiply, McLean says, to include rainbow coloring, manifested in color-blocking, flecked or speckled paints.

Source: Dunn-Edwards Paints

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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